CHICAGO — A US immigration judge in Chicago on Friday (March 24, US time) granted asylum to a Singaporean blogger, saying he was persecuted for his political opinions in the Republic.
Amos Yee, 18, who had been jailed twice in Singapore, qualifies as a political refugee, according to a 13-page opinion by the US immigration judge.
Amos is immediately eligible for release after having been held in US immigration detention since Dec 16, 2016, according to his attorney, Ms Sandra Grossman, who is based in Bethesda, Maryland.
The Singapore Embassy in Washington could not be reached for comment after business hours on Friday evening.
Judge Samuel Cole ruled Amos’ prosecution, detention and maltreatment at the hands of the Singapore authorities “constitute(s) persecution on account of Amos’ political opinions”, and called him a “young political dissident”.
“The evidence presented at the hearing demonstrates Singapore’s prosecution of Amos was a pretext to silence his political opinions critical of the Singapore government,” Mr Cole wrote.
The US Department of Homeland Security had opposed Amos’ asylum application, claiming the Singapore government legitimately prosecuted Amos.
Ms Grossman said the judge’s decision supported the right of individuals to criticise their government.
“The right to free speech is sacred, even when such speech is considered offensive,” she said in an email. “The decision timely underscores the vital need for an independent judiciary in a functioning democracy.”